Ananya Sahoo

I live on the most peculiar street in the world,
A pretty bubble if you may.

As I step outside on to the cobbled grey pathway,
A plethora of aromas greet my nostrils.
The smell of Aliya Aunty’s biryani spices mixes with
That of Savitri Didi’s famous Sambar,
As if they were long lost lovers meeting after decades.
I dodge quickly as a torn, red, cricket ball comes thundering my way
And a troop of little boys follow hungrily.
Atif and Prakash are opening batsmen –
The fielding team’s nightmare come true.
The sun’s last rays hit Radhika’s neatly oiled pigtails
And bounce off Fatima’s hijab as they cycle along the road furiously,
Perhaps trying to outrun society’s stern gaze.

I stand and take pause as I look at the setting sun.
Watching over our little street as everybody prepares for dusk to begin,
Oblivious to the differences which are pointed out by society again and again
I take pause and marvel as the cacophony of noises dissolves into a well-rehearsed harmony.

Just as the Ganesh temple’s aarti puja begins
With bells ringing at uniform intervals,
The mosque’s azaan rings out, loud and clear
As if reminding everybody that Allah and Ganesh ji are indeed brothers.
As I walked along, the bright lights at the Akhtars’ were switched on, lighting up the huge front yard,
Where the elderly Gupta Aunty sat with Noor Aunty, exchanging the latest tea over a cup of chai.
Her saffron draped dupatta swaying slightly in the air beside her best friend’s dark burqa
The saffron and black breathing confidence into each other.
I was stopped by an excited Salma,
With a steel tiffin full of Ramzan special semiyaan.
Two steps later, Lakshmi Aunty purposefully handed me the evening puja’s prasad.
I walked along, with my tiffin of semiyaan and ladoos,
Breathing in the slightly stale air resulting from bikes, lunas and other conspicuous middle class vehicles.

I walked along, an anomaly outside the bubble,
For who can imagine saffron and green together?
Outside the bubble, shiny red flowed down the streets - not saffron, not green, loud screaming red.
Outside the bubble, Allah and Ganeshji watched,
With tears in their eyes as their masterpieces wreaked havoc.
Divine tears falling upon us as rain,
Trying in vain to wash off our collective sins.

As I walked down my street, I felt surreal,
As if the bubble might pop any second,
As if the world I lived in balanced on a precarious set of scales,
And tipping it even a little would be catastrophic.
I looked around my street with pride,
Where the Farhans and Rahuls and Farahs and Radhas
Lived and loved and breathed in the same air.
My street was a utopian anomaly, a glitch in the matrix,
Defying society’s rules in broad daylight.
A small world of bliss in a world full of chaos.

I live on the most peculiar street in the world,
A pretty bubble if you may.

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